SoHo residents say huge crowds outside new Nike store are driving them crazy

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SoHo has a fancy new Niketown last week, which is nice for people who like sneakers but much less so for locals who say the store has drawn rowdy crowds that flood the surrounding streets and sidewalks.

The six-story, 55,000-square-foot store on the corner of Broadway and Spring Street was controversial even before it opened. Earlier this month, elected officials including Margaret Chin, council member and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, as well as members of the SoHo Alliance and Community Board 2, held a public protest outside the New York City Department of Buildings, arguing the store would already clog a crowded neighborhood.

“SoHo residents and tourists are crowded like sardines, especially along Broadway, and many are forced to walk the streets,” Sean Sweeney, director of the SoHo Alliance, said in a statement earlier this month. . “This new Nike building will bring hundreds of extra people an hour to a dangerously overcrowded sidewalk. Doesn’t the building department care about the safety and well-being of tourists and residents of this city? ”

Nonetheless, the store opened on November 18, and residents posted photos and videos on social media showing massive crowds outside:

It doesn’t seem like being in a crush is much fun either:

Neighbors said in the post that the grand opening of the store was a “ridiculous mess”, with a resident calling it “[o]one of the most disruptive events of this type I have ever seen. Another told the tabloid at 11:30 am, “It looked like a nightclub, not a store. There were big guys like bouncers out front who were screaming and pushing people. “

Residents fear that major store events, such as the planned “Swoosh Saturdays,” which will feature celebrities, will draw even larger crowds to the area. Elected officials like Chin, who represents the area, say zoning laws should have prevented the store and other large-scale retail stores from opening in the first place. Chin, Brewer and CB2 Chairman Tobi Bergman wrote a letter to DOB ​​in February 2015 expressing concern over what they are calling an “big box retail explosion in SoHo.”

“We live in New York City, not Niketown,” Chin said in a statement earlier this month. “For too long, builders have been allowed to bypass, or ignore altogether, zoning laws established to protect our communities from development that does not match the character and scale of our historic neighborhoods.”

Chin’s team says things haven’t changed since the store opened. “What we have in SoHo is a lack of enforcement of existing zoning rules,” Chin spokesman Paul Leonard told Gothamist, noting that the DOB had authorized the company to modify the building. which allowed him to open up. “We don’t think a change should have been attributed. Niketown is the kind of large-scale retail business that we believe has been allowed to flourish in our neighborhood.”

He added: “It’s detrimental to the quality of life. It is detrimental to other business owners. A destination store like this is not really appropriate for this iconic historic district.”

The DOB confirmed that it authorized a building expansion under the 2008 building code, and said the company did not need a special permit to set up a full-scale retail store. The ministry provided Gothamist with the following statement:

The DOB has reviewed the project on several occasions and determined that it complies with New York City building codes and the zoning resolution. In April 2015, the DOB audited numerous retail store projects in the region, including this one. Once again, we have found that the project complies with the law. The DOB will continue to closely monitor changes to neighborhood properties and we will take enforcement action where necessary.

Still, elected officials say they will do what they can to fight the city at large-scale retail stores. “When you have a store so out of scale for the neighborhood, it really has an effect,” Leonard said. “[Niketown] has four floors. It has a basketball half court. There is a lack of recognition that this is New York City. In this emblematic district, it is out of place. “

With Emma Whitford.

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